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5 lessons project managers can learn from event managers

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1. The art of the project proposal

Being able to successfully design and pitch a project proposal to a client - the primary talent of any event manager worth their salt - is a fantastically useful skill to hone for project managers.

Typically, project managers are either handed new projects to manage from their current employer or specifically hired to manage an existing project for a new company, meaning that they often have little to do with the initial proposal process. That being said, youre bound to be tasked with delivering a pitch at least once in your career, so its important to learn the necessary skills early on.

Studying the fashion in which event managers plot their pitches - which are highly visual, dynamic and intuitive - will help boost your creativity, increase your overall understanding of the purpose and potential impact of the projects success and make you more confident interacting with the client. Developing these skills now will prove invaluable if you decide to branch out in the future and start your own business.

2. Foresee disaster and be flexible

Day-of staffing shortage? Catering mistake? Wedding dress on fire?

Event managers will see it all coming. They have to be prepared to think on their feet and ready to initiate a suitable back-up plan at the drop of a hat. No matter how bad things get, they rarely have the same luxury of time that would allow them to bemoan the inconvenience had befallen them and thoroughly strategising a response.

Project managers would benefit hugely from becoming comfortable responding to problems and changing course last minute to avoid any impact on the project. Theres always the possibility that, despite months or years of planning, your project will encounter imminent adversity in the home stretch. Expect that it could happen and youll be ready to respond.

3. People skills

No ones saying that you dont have them. But, for the most part, project managers tend to be more at home analysing endless columns of excel data and strategising the best staff plans to meet various deadlines than having work drinks (the event managers forte!).

To maximise the effectiveness of your role, it pays to get closer with your staff by allowing you access to informal conversations regarding details of the project and its progress that you may not have previously known about. People will feel more comfortable coming to you with suggestions or issues and you will, in turn, feel more comfortable approaching your own superiors.

4. Make it Look easy

No matter how difficult a project becomes or how hairy things get nearer its deadline, take a page from a seasoned event managers book and work hard to make it look easy.

Your staff, not to mention your client, will be looking to you to set the mood. If you seem overly stressed or volatile and respond to problems with despair, it will dampen the teams spirits and the clients faith.

Good event managers have harnessed their power to charm guests, no matter how complicated or difficult the event is going. Do the same with the client and your staff. Staying positive will go a long way in improving morale and increasing productivity.

5. Enjoy yourself

Its an event managers job to appear to be enjoying themselves throughout the event, perhaps stopping to have a chat with a client despite the hours of work ahead of them.

Project managers tend to be thinking so far ahead that when one goal is achieved or one crucial deadline is met, they simply put their heads down and focus on the next one. Theres rarely a team celebration until the project has reached its complete conclusion and its impacts have been positively assessed.

While thats a sign of an admirable work ethic, its important for the morale of both you and your staff to take time to enjoy smaller achievements throughout the projects lifespan. It will make the working atmosphere feel more positive and proactive for everyone.

*Caroline Ginnane of Better Venueshas been part of managing events for Westend Eurovision, We Will Rock You 10th anniversary Party and hospitality during International Rugby Matches for over 3000 guests.


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